The first couple of the Ten Commandments (numbering is non-trivial, traditions differ):
You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
You shall not bow down to them or worship them
(From Deuteronomy 5, NIV)
Start with a clean slate. Postulate a vague entity/idea/principle worthy of the name “God”. Do not personify the entity. (Personification is already “extra information”, we’re trying to work with the bare minimum here.) Also, rather stay away from the “God of the Philosophers”, the prime-mover original-cause idea, because a prime mover is not necessarily the meaning assigner and invokes infinite regression. (The third meh/lah post is on its way, dealing with this.) Rather define the bare-bones idea we’re working with in terms of “that idea or principle according to which humans should ideally live their lives”, in the God as “Meaning Assigner” sense.
If you conclude the idea is enigmatic, yes, that’s the whole point. Let it be an enigmatic idea that represents our enigmatic and hard to pin-down idea of what it means to live a good life. One reader concluded his concept of his God, working with these definitions, must be found in his sense of empathy and compassion. Right… With these ideas, let’s look at atheists and the Commandments…
A certain kind of “atheist” believes the idea of “God” presented by the Bible is a human creation, a development of human culture. As such, they effectively believe this idea is a “graven image”. Fundamentalists that believe in literal Biblical infallibility, for example, are actually idolising the Bible. A Greek Orthodox friend of mine recently told me that in their tradition, the Bible is not the Truth, the Bible is about the Truth, a very important distinction.
If you hold the “atheist”‘s belief about the Bible and the idea of God presented by it, then arguably the best way to most faithfully hold the first few commandments is to reject the worship of that particular notion of God, it being idolatry. The atheist’s statement “there is no God” is, after all, working with the typical monotheistic definition of “God”. An atheist is so faithfully avoiding the worship of what he or she believes are false gods, that he or she is prepared to walk a path of social/cultural persecution for it. For their faithfulness, they are persecuted.
After all, the early Christians were atheists as well.
··· Pause for dramatic effect ···
See Philip Harland’s post: Breaking news: Early Christians were impious atheists . . . (NT 3.2) … “in the eyes of some angry Greeks and Romans, that is.” And that’s then the point: they were atheists according to the status quo, the surrounding Greek and Roman culture. Our contemporary atheists are the same, defined according to the surrounding Christian culture. What is an atheist anyway? Some argue the word shouldn’t even exist, being defined according to what they are not.
Cut each other some slack and see what we can learn from one another!